It’s pretty obvious what most kids would pick if given the choice between playing Candy Crush Saga or an educational game, but Game Development Masters instructor Gerard Merritt is trying to change that. Outside of his role as course director for Game Production Tools, Gerard owns CelleC Games, an Orlando-based mobile app company that has published a series of titles that are helping redefine the notion of learning through video games.
“Older educational games didn’t feel like games, and we’re trying to do things a little bit different,” he says. “We develop them as games first, giving them a cool and innovative mechanic, and then infuse the education into them. For all our initial ideas we do a small beta test with kids to see how they respond, and they have to actually like the experience or we won’t follow through with it. Games can be such a great tool to educate, and starting this company was about trying to find a better way to engage students in learning using that technology.”
CelleC has been featured in the Orlando Business Journal, and currently has four products on Android, two on Windows, and one on iOS – Math Slash, which has become their most popular game since its release this January. The gameplay style is similar to Fruit Ninja, with math problems taking the place of slashed produce. The lessons themselves follow the educational standards for elementary school children in grades one through six, and covers addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and even decimals
“We take Fruit Ninja and turn it upside down by using math,” Gerard says. “Students have to figure out which equation goes with the solution, and how these numbers work together. Both kids and parents really seem to like it. Without any advertising we have 20,000 downloads on Android, and it just keeps picking up.
Since founding the company Gerard has also incorporated the help of dozens of Full Sail students as interns, helping him to program, play test, and debug while getting practical experience and a production credit on a published title. Among the next projects he’s getting their help on are three new games, as well as a proprietary reporting engine that will update the functionality of all CelleC’s products, and may even add to the legitimacy of gaming in the classroom.
“We actually have our games utilized at some local schools, and I think getting our reporting engine built will be so crucial to expanding that more,” he says. “It will allow teachers to track where each student is at in their skill level based off a common set of criteria. It gives grades, and tells you where kids are weak and strong so you can then focus on specific areas to help them out. Kids want to be challenged and entertained, so if we can make our products fun and have actual analytics that teachers can follow, I think that is the next step for educational games. “